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Archive for the 'Inquiry' Category

Science Action Labs – Sciencing: Learning About the Scientific Method.

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 15th February 2011

Science Action Labs -
Sciencing: Learning About the Scientific Method.
by Edward Shevick

Sciencing: Learning About the Scientific Method.This book is suggested for grades 4-8, but I find that there are some gems in this book that can be adapted to classrooms of any grade.

The book is organized into 23 hands-on science activities ready for student use.  I won’t lie, a number of the activities are pretty lame.  However, several that really shine will be discussed here.

Sciencing #6:
Hypothesis Lab
My favorite parts of this lab are the second and third scientific problems. 

One problem involves a pie pan with one-third cut out.  Students are asked to predict what path a small ball will take when rolled around the rim until it exits at the open end.  After discussion, students carry out this simple experiment.

The other problem involves two balloons filled with different volumes of air and connected with a stopper inbetween.  Students are asked to predict what will happen when air is allowed to flow freely from one balloon to another.

Both labs are fairly simple to do either as a class demonstration, or more ideally, as small group activities with your classes.

One can easily see how these activities can be adapted to a physical science curriculum about motion or equilibrium.  The balloon activity can even be adapted to a life science classroom discussion about homeostasis.  Or, use either of these activities early in the year as part of your nature of science (NOS) lessons.

Sciencing #7:
Consumer Lab: Comparing Paper Towels

One year, my students wanted to do a science fair experiment to compare paper towel absorption and strength.  It was a great idea, but I was a bit disappointed with their experimental design.

This book presents a fantastic experimental design that will surely improve on any students’ attempt to conduct this kind of investigation.  It’s simple and easy, and I wish I had thought of it first!

Sciencing #13:
Mystery Box Lab: Learning by Direct Evidence
This is the traditional mystery box lab in which students try to figure out what is inside a box.  This lab has the students creating their own mystery box.  A nice little lab for any NOS lessons.

Sciencing #20:
“Resilasticity” Lab or How High Will I Bounce
This is a nice quantitative lab in which students collect data on three different types of balls, calculate averages, and graph and analyze the data.

This is a great lab for a NOS lesson, a math or science lesson about quantitative vs. qualitative data, or simply a graphing lesson.  Every intro science class needs to do a lesson like this which combines all of these necessary science skills.

Sciencing #22:
Can You Learn To Think Metric
A great little lesson where students are given some exemplars of items in metric sizes, and then must make predictions about the metric sizes of various other objects.  Finally, students progress to learning how to use a metric ruler to measure things.

A fantastic lesson involving making predictions, abstract thinking, hands-on activity, math skills development, and experimentation.


All-in-all, this little softcover booklet is packed with several duds, but also several gems.  It is readily available for fewer than $10, so go get one today.

Posted in Biology lesson ideas, Chemistry, Inquiry, Life Science, Nature of Science (NOS), Physics, Science Pedagogy | No Comments »

The Power of Analogy: Teaching Biology with Relevant Classroom-Tested Activities

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 5th October 2008

The Power of Analogy: Teaching Biology with Relevant Classroom-Tested Activities
Marcella W. Hackney and James H. Wandersee (2002)

Teaching Biology with Relevant Classroom-Tested Activities.I stumbled upon this book and it has been quite fortuitous that I obtained a copy of this publication — it is fantastic.

The book begins with a discussion of the basics of analogy, simile, and metaphor to help the teacher understand how bridging figurative language and meaning can have a valuable place in constructivist education.  The rest of the book presents chapters of sample activities using analogy, simile, and metaphor to teach typical biology concepts.

Each chapter has a detailed description of the activity, implementation guidelines, notes, specific example lesson blackline masters which have everything clearly listed (purpose, materials, guide to action), and generic activity blackline masters so you have an outline to follow for creation of your own lesson based on the example activity type.  Also provided are sample responses to the example blackline masters.

This book is as complete as it gets in terms of conveying a unique pedagogical technique, and provides enough scaffolding to aid the teacher in implementation of sample and generic lesson activities.  You’ll be up-and-running with a new activity for your classroom in no time.

Published by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), you can’t go wrong with this quality book.

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Posted in Biology, Biology lesson ideas, Constructivism, Ecology lesson ideas, Inquiry, Life Science, Science Pedagogy | No Comments »

The Chemistry Classroom

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 20th September 2008

The Chemistry Classroom: Formulas for Successful Teaching
J. Dudley Herron (1996)

This book is a nice little gem for a chemistry teacher interested in constructivism, inquiry, and cognitive research as it applies to the chemistry classroom.  Although this book is written by a chemistry teacher, this book can be a very useful read for teachers of other sciences.  From the back cover of the book:

“This book will help researchers understand reasons that students are not learning, and it will suggest things they can do to improve the situation.”

One of the topics I found particularly interesting in this book is the Principle of Least Cognitive Effort which, simply put, “dictates that, faced with a cognitive decision, we make the choice that would appear to require the least effort over our lifetime (p. 50).”  You will immediately see why students don’t do their homework or try to memorize vocabulary or complex problem-solving tasks rather than try to understand the process.

Written like a literature review backed by the personal research and anecdotal evidence of an experienced science teacher, this book is complete in its treatment of relevant details, and is an easy and enlightening read.  Highly recommended for any science teacher interested in developing his pedagogical chops.

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Posted in Chemistry, Constructivism, Inquiry, Science Pedagogy | No Comments »

Cell Division as a Model for Exponential Growth.

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 13th September 2008

Looking for an interesting way to introduce exponential growth early in your ecology unit?  Here’s a technology-based lesson in which your students can use computers, the internet, and spreadsheet/graphing software to construct this knowledge for themselves.

What you’ll need:

  • computer access (suggested one computer for each pair of students).
  • internet access to www.cellsalive.com.
  • about 45 minutes of class time (one period).
  • graph paper; OR optional spreadsheet software for graphing.

What to do:

Go to the CELLS alive! bacteria cell cam page.  First instruct students how to use the cell cam, and make sure you already have practiced it yourself.  Below the three cell cam frames are buttons you can use to step forward in time by 1, 5, or 20 minute intervals.  This will change the center intermediate frame only.  Or, you can enter a frame number below the frame and click out of the text box to see the frame change.

Start at frame number 1 on the intermediate frame and step forward in time by one or five minute intervals.  You will see the bacteria cells divide.  It is not important to be precise about the exact minute/frame that the cells divide.  As the number of cells increases, it can be difficult to identify the exact frame in which division took place.  Look for an obvious cleavage furrow.  Students will realize after the first couple of cell divisions that the number of cells doubles with each division, eliminating the need to actually count all of the cells formed.  It is okay to estimate which frame the cell division happens.

Have students keep track of time at which each division is observed/estimated and the number of cells at each division.  After stepping through about four hours of cell divisions (takes only a couple of minutes), there will be enough data to graph.

A sample graph of the data will look like this:

Clearly we have exponential growth here.

Note that if if using spreadsheet/graphing software in this lesson, you can first teach your students how to make a simple spreadsheet, format cells for data, and use the chart wizard to graph the data.  A fantastic technology lesson to support your life science topic!

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Posted in Biology, Biology lesson ideas, Ecology lesson ideas, Inquiry, Life Science, Technology | No Comments »

Biology Inquiries

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on 6th September 2008

Biology Inquiries: Standards-Based Labs, Assessments, and Discussion Lessons
by Martin Shields (2006)

Biology Inquiries.The title says it all–this book is the real deal, and is a must-have for any life sciences teacher.  Written by Marty Shields, a master teacher who I have had the pleasure of working with as my cooperating teacher during student teaching. 

From the back cover of the book:

Biology Inquiries contains lessons that:

  • Begin with mysteries, questions, and challenges
  • Emphasize evidence, explanations, and justifications
  • Focus on common biology misconceptions
  • Foster questioning, exploration, scientific skepticism, and reflection
  • Guide students to construct understanding for themselves
  • Bridge research-based theory with classroom realities

Do yourself a favor and buy this book today, then start working these ideas into your lesson plans ASAP!!!

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Posted in Biology, Biology lesson ideas, Constructivism, Ecology lesson ideas, Inquiry, Life Science | No Comments »